This festive season, Durga Puja pandals of the National Capital have taken a green jump.
Reports of immersion of toxic idols, those made from non-biodegradable and toxic materials like plaster of paris, gypsum and lead-based paint polluting our many water sources, are a yearly occurrence after festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi and Durga Puja in Delhi.
According to a 2011 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Sciences, the quality of Yamuna’s water deteriorates significantly during festivals that involved idol immersions.
According to the annual report published by the Central Board of Pollution Control, the Yamuna in Delhi is classified as a priority class one river, making it one of the most polluted rivers in India. The Yamuna is also the Delhi residents’ river of choice for immersions.
This year, however, a handful of Durga Puja committees are trying to make a difference.
The Matri Mandir Durga Puja Samiti’s pandal in Safdarjung Enclave, for example, has opted for idols made of soluble clay and organic paints to ensure minimal pollution after immersion.
The Cooperative Ground Durga Puja Samiti’s pandal in Chittaranjan Park, also known as Delhi’s Little Bengal, similarly has made an idol of bamboo, hay/straw and clay, which has been coated with organic vegetable colours.
Shorbha Bhattacharya, an organising member of the samiti, explained that the idea behind opting for a bamboo idol was to not pollute the Yamuna after the immersion. “The clay will dissolve, leaving the hay and bamboo floating in the water,” he said.
The cooperative ground pandal has also crafted everything — from plates made of the arica nut tree barks to crane statues made of reeds and flower motifs made with wooden ice cream spoons — from bio-degradable substances. The pandal at Matri Mandir uses natural wood and velvet cloth for decoration purposes, topped with some non bio-degradable styrofoam.
The B-Block pandal of Chittaranjan Park Durga Puja Samiti has also taken strides in ensuring that their celebrations do not harm the environment. They have used biodegradable elements — bamboo, jute, cane, straw and coir ropes — in decorating and building their pandal.
The B-Block pandal organizers have also built water pits, to ensure minimal contamination of nearby water sources. Sudipto Barua, the concept designer of the pandal, claimed that they were probably the first ones in Delhi to do so. “Durga Puja is the Bengali’s Christmas,” he joked.
The Milani Cultural and Welfare Association have also come up with an elaborate pandal in Mayur Vihar to mark their silver jubilee. Mrinal Biswas, general secretary, said their pandal is made out of jute, mud and organic colours only. “We wanted to be able to give back to the society,” Biswas said, adding that 30% of the money raised for Durga Puja was spent on organizing welfare activities like health camps for the needy.